North, South Korea agree to hold first official talks

Sydney, June 7 (ANI): Signaling a possible breakthrough in cross-border ties after months of escalated military tensions, North and South Korea have finally agreed to hold their first official talks.

A surprise offer from Pyongyang proposed discussions on a range of commercial and humanitarian issues, from reopening a joint industrial complex to resuming cross-border family reunions.

In response, South Korea called for minister-level talks on June 12 in Seoul, and urged the North to reopen severed communications channels for working-level discussions from Friday, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

South Korea's unification minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae said he hopes the dialogue will provide a momentum for South and North Korea to improve relations based on mutual trust.

China, the North's sole major ally, gave a positive response. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China is happy, and added that the country welcomes the move.

Official contacts between Seoul and Pyongyang have been essentially frozen since South Korea accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

The North's proposal, carried in a statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), said the venue and date for talks "can be set to the convenience of the South side".

Initial subjects for discussion would be the Kaesong joint industrial zone, which was closed at the height of the recent tensions, and the resumption of cross-border tours to the North's Mount Kumgang resort.

Humanitarian issues such as reuniting family members separated after the 1950-53 Korean War could also be discussed, the CPRK said. (ANI)

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